We’ll be back with a full-service Brief next week.
In the meantime, this week, in Cuba news…
Cubans on the island received over $3.4 billion in remittances from the U.S. in 2016, up from $3.3 billion in 2015, according to a report from the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group (HCG), EFE reports; however, the 2.7 percent increase represents the lowest rate of growth in any of the last eight years.
The report found that the increase was due to an upsurge in Cuban migration to the U.S. in 2016, as well as the expansion of flights to Cuba, which led to lower travel costs and, in turn, allowed more Cuban Americans to travel to the island to physically deliver remittances.
Despite the increase, the HCG study suggested that an expected decrease in migration will correlate with a similar decrease in the amount of remittances sent in future years. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a record 5,213 Cuban migrants at sea in FY2016, but announced in May it had interdicted fewer than 100 Cuban migrants at sea in the first four months of 2017, including none in April, the first such occurrence in seven years, as the Wall Street Journal reported at the time; Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft attributed the decline to the rescindment of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy by the Obama administration in January.
In 2009, the Obama administration eliminated restrictions on remittances sent from Cuban Americans to Cuba, and in September 2015, the administration removed all limits on remittances to the island, with the exception of transactions with certain prohibited government officials. The Cuba policy memorandum released by the Trump administration does not impose restrictions on remittances, although it does expand the definition of prohibited officials with whom transactions cannot be made.
Josefina Vidal, the former director of North American affairs at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX) and a key figure in negotiations with the U.S. that led to the December 17, 2014 announcement that the two countries would seek to normalize relations, has been named Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, the Associated Press reports.
Ms. Vidal had served in the position, which does not have a set term length, since 2006. Gustavo Machin Gómez, deputy chief of North American affairs at MINREX, will also leave his post, having been named ambassador to Spain.
Two weeks ago, the Miami Herald reported that former Deputy Chief of Mission Scott Hamilton is now serving as chargé d’affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, after the conclusion of former chargé d’affaires Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis’ three-year term as head of the post. The Trump administration has not indicated its intention to name an ambassador to the embassy.
Editor’s note: Per President Trump’s National Security Memorandum on Cuba policy, relevant agencies began the process of drafting new regulations on July 16. You can find the Cuba Central Team’s comprehensive overview of what we do and don’t know about the President’s Cuba policy at this link. Read the rest of this entry »